Partnerships in Study Abroad: Pros & Cons of Customized Program Providers

Partnerships in Study Abroad: Pros & Cons of Customized Program Providers
Partnerships in Study Abroad: Pros & Cons of Customized Program Providers

Instead of doing everything on your own, you may wish to find a customized program provider to assist you in developing your faculty-led study abroad program. Basically, you tell the provider what you want/need and they do the leg work, give you a price per student, and help with program marketing and other forms of support.

The pros are many. Mostly, you don’t get bogged down in program logistics and can focus on your teaching. Also, many providers don’t charge you a penny if your program doesn’t acquire enough students; so if they agree to devote time and resources, then they must have a real commitment to seeing your program through and helping you succeed. Finally, much of the risk shifts to the provider, who is usually better equipped to manage it.

The cons are few. Usually there’s a higher cost per student, since there is a middleman who needs to be compensated for a lot of good, quality work. If this is a big issue for your students, then consider marketing your program nation-wide through and other means (listservs, contacts, associations to which you belong, conferences, etc.). There are many benefits to doing so.

Institutes and Universities (both US and foreign) may also provide services similar to customized program providers. They may have branch campuses or other property and/or personnel available for rent. This type of partnership works best when you’re going to one location and staying there for the duration of your trip. They should be able to provide you with a classroom, housing, and some support for organizing excursions, etc. at a lower cost than a provider.

Whether you do it yourself, hire a provider, or partner with a college or university overseas, here’s what you will need to think about to bring it all together.

  • Facilities – What classroom facilities will be used in-country?
  • Transportation – What modes of transportation will be used?
  • Accommodations – Where will students and faculty stay?
  • Excursions – How will your excursions be coordinated?
  • Meals – Will meals be included? If so, which ones and how?
  • Orientations – How will participants be provided with critical information (health, safety, cuture, etc.)?
  • Disabilities – What accommodations can be made for students with physical disabilities?
  • Emergencies – How will emergencies be handled, especially if there is only one faculty director?

Before selecting one or more study abroad partners, be certain that they have strong knowledge and experience in the locations where you will be going. While one company may be able to pull off a fabulous faculty-led study abroad program for you in Spain, it may not have the contacts to organize something in Argentina with the same quality.

When you find a partner, be sure that you articulate what you want your partner to do, and get it in writing! You should come up with an agreement that specifies your expectations, the fee for services provided, and exactly what that fee will include and not include. Most host institutions and program providers won’t package airfare for you; this will have to be done separately through a travel agent. However, they should be able to handle all on-site logistics and give you additional on-site support to help with unexpected problems and emergencies that might come up.

What to look for in a Partner

Quality & Reputation – A reputable host institution or third-party provider that can offer you quality services.

Student Support – Support from an international office at the host or support from a third-party provider/partner.

Health & Safety – Health and safety services and assistance, as well as emergency protocols and procedures.

Risk Management – How have they handled risk and emergencies? Do they seem to know what they are doing?

Course Options – If course instruction is being requested, quality teaching that your students can substitute for their major, minor, or general education requirements, and a transcript!

Total Cost – A total price that is attractive, and makes your program comparable to or less than the cost of other similar faculty-led programs.

Housing – Acceptable housing options and availability for students and the professors.

Student Visa – If required, visa assistance from the provider.

Excursions – Are they able to provide relevant, interesting excursions and arrange the many logistics like transport, lodging, meals, etc?

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One thought on “Partnerships in Study Abroad: Pros & Cons of Customized Program Providers

  1. I agree that some customized program providers can be good. Others can be a ripoff. You have to be careful.

    San Francisco State University’s Journalism Department is now in its third year of a collaboration with ieiMedia (, a private company that sponsors media study-abroad programs. IeiMedia has been working in this field for nine years and we’ve been able to form a mutually beneficial partnership. With ieiMedia’s expertise and connections in the study abroad field and our department’s expertise in multimedia instruction we’ve been able to craft enriching, challenging, rigorous programs where students study multimedia skills and report on the local communities. We’ve run programs in Urbino, Italy; Armagh, Northern Ireland; and Perpignan, France. Students produce a website or print publication so they leave with more than simply pretty pictures and fond memories. They have videos, stories and photos on a website that they can show to potential employers.

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